Golfers ready to continue clubbing MIAA competition after week off

Eric Smith

Branson, Mo. is the entertainment capital of the Ozarks, known for its comedy shows, musical acts and other exciting events. Golfing is not at the top of the list.

However, with the MIAA Conference Championship beginning today at the Branson Creek Golf Course, the Washburn Ichabod golf team hopes to take the city by storm.

The grueling two-day tournament with its 72 holes of golf will decide the winner of the MIAA for the 2007-08 season. Currently Washburn stands atop the conference with 32 tournament points after winning all four conference points tournaments of the season. The next closest team is Central Missouri with 24.5 points. Mathematically, as long as the Ichabods finish within four spots of the Mules they will win their fifth MIAA championship in the last six seasons.

“We still want to go win the tournament as a team and maybe try to get an individual winner from our team as well,” said senior Ryan Deutsch.

If the Ichabods decide to win the tournament like they’ve done all year, it would be the third time in four years that they were perfect in conference. It would also be their 10th-straight MIAA tournament victory, dating back to last season.

“We would like to see the streak go into double digits,” said junior Matt Ewald. “It’s not something to be cocky about, but achieving that feat would motivate us even more and is something to certainly strive for.”

The Washburn men are no stranger to the Branson Creek golf course, having played there twice last season. In the first go-around at The Drury Battle at the Creek, the Ichabods finished fourth overall, ten strokes back of first place. Ewald led the way for Washburn with a 146, which tied him for fourth.

“We did not play well at that tournament at all,” said Deutsch.

The second time around went much better for the golf team as they won the tournament by 29 strokes and secured the MIAA conference championship. The top three finishers in the tournament were all from Washburn. Ewald finished first, with Matt Lazzo and Ryan Deutsch close behind.

With the off week, the Ichabods got lots of extra practice time in and were able to just get ready for the postseason. Several of the team members took a day out to go to a different course up the road in Manhattan and prepare for the upcoming tournament.

“[Branson Creek] is a similar course to Colbert Hills,” said Ewald. “We’re just out to relax, have some fun, and maybe gain a little more preparation to get ready for the tournament. The way the Topeka Country Club is set up with tight trees, it’s a lot different style than [Branson Creek].”

With the good play from Ewald in last week’s tournament at CSU-Monterey Bay Otter Invitational, he received player of the week in the MIAA. In that tournament, Ewald finished second and helped the Ichabod team finish with the silver medal after his 71 in the third round of the tournament, one of the lowest single-round scores for the event. This honor was received by the junior leader for the third time.

“All the individual accolades are great but are just a little bonus added on to all the team accomplishments we are able to achieve,” said Ewald.

Another key award that will be taken home after today’s tournament comes to an end is the MIAA conference player of the year. Leading the way are the two Washburn leaders, Lazzo and Ewald. Both of them are neck and neck for the award and whoever has the better tournament will probably win the individual accomplishment. Ewald won it last year.

“It would be nice to go back-to-back and win it individually myself,” said Ewald. “[Lazzo] is my roommate and my best friend, and there is always that little grudge that you want to beat him. But if I don’t beat him, I can say, ‘You know what? I lost to a good player.’

“Winning the conference MVP would just be a side note. The big thing to me, and hopefully every other guy on the team, is winning the conference title.”